We are in the middle of the (openly) gayest 24 hours of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Last night, out Dutch speedskater Ireen Wust stunned a raucous arena of Canadian fans in Richmond Olympic Oval when she won the gold medal in the 1,500 meters. And starting at noon PST today, a lesbian fisticuffs is going down in the women’s hockey semifinals.
In the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Wust won a gold medal in the 3,000 meters and a bronze in the 1,500. She was only 19 at the time, and quickly became known as a speed skating wunderkind. Unfortunately, she was unable to match her Olympic level of success in the following years on the international stage. Even her first two races in the Vancouver Games — the 3,000 and 1,000 meters — saw her in 7th and 8th place, respectively.
Plenty of fans, including some in her home country, were ready to call Torino a fluke. But not Wust. In last night’s 1,500, she beat out Canadian crowd favorite Christine Nesbitt, skating the fastest last lap of her career at 1 minute, 56.89 seconds.
Wust, who came out in a Dutch magazine in 2009 and is in a relationship with teammate Sanne van Kerkhof, has been reluctant to talk about her sexuality in Vancouver. Though, as Pat Griffin recently pointed out, with all the pressure on athletes at this level of competition, it’s hard to blame her for wanting to concentrate on skating. Maybe we’ll hear more out of Wust in the coming days, now that she can breathe a little easier.
On the hockey side of the Olympics, things are a little trickier. Four countries are left in medal contention: The US, Canada, Sweden and Finland.
Home team Canada has an openly gay forward in Sarah Vaillancourt. Sweden is led by openly gay captain Erika Holst. And while we don’t know of any out lesbians on the US Hockey team, we do know they are all having a love affair with super lesbian Ellen DeGeneres.
Depending on how things shake down this afternoon, there’s going to be at least some kind of lesbian representation in both medal games.
Sarah Vaillancourt and Team Canada have absolutely dusted the ice with every team they’ve come up against in Vancouver. They beat Slovakia 18-0 in their opening matchup, followed by a 10-1 routing of Switzerland and a 13-1 shellacking of Sweden. (That’s an insane outscoring of 41-2, just in case you’re having trouble counting that high on your fingers.)
Things haven’t been as smooth for Holst and the Swedish team. They beat Switzerland 3-0 and Slovakia 6-2 in the early round games, but then they ran up against Canada, and we already saw how that went down. They are not favored to win against the US this afternoon — but they weren’t favored in Torino either, and they shocked the world by beating America 3-2 in the semifinals.
As for Team USA, they rolled over China, Russia and Finland on the way in. And they’re still feeling the sting of ’06. (Plus, you know, the Ellen incentive.)
How gay is the gold medal game going to get? Well, the semis are at 12:00 and 5:00 PST on MSNBC here in the States. And both will be streaming live online nbcolympics.com. So, we’ll know by tonight.
In other lesbian athlete news, Norwegian cross-country skier Vibeke Skofterud placed placed 22nd in the 10km individual race last Monday. And she was unable to finish the 15 km pursuit on Friday.
Finally, we told you about Pride House in Best Lesbian Week Ever, and while they still haven’t seen any Olympians show up, the mayor of Whistler came by to hang out. And also some guy named Stephen Colbert. He was in town taping for The Colbert Report and he wanted to interview director Jennifer Breakspear, and find out if he could get the honorary title "queen for the day."
I vote yes.
So, let’s get international — who are you rooting for to take home the gold in women’s hockey?